- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Teacher burnout, frustration with the evaluation system and a workplace culture that doesn’t include teachers in decision-making were some of the issues raised Wednesday as D.C. Council members examined high turnover rates for public school teachers that exceed the national average.

According to D.C. State Board of Education, the average annual turnover rate of teachers in D.C. Public Schools and charter schools is 25%, compared to the national average of 16% and the average rate for urban districts of 13%. Over five years, DCPS loses about 70% of its teachers, compared to an average of 45% at 16 other urban school districts.

In addition, Wards 5 and 8 have the highest turnover rates for DCPS teachers (more than 30%), while Wards 1 and 3 have the lowest rates (about 20%). Turnover rates for charter school teachers did not vary much by ward.

Meanwhile, turnover rates for principals in public and charter schools are about 25% in the District and nationally.

The statistics were featured Wednesday in a joint oversight hearing of the Education Committee and the Committee of the Whole.

Public schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee told lawmakers that DCPS “won’t compromise our high bar of excellence for continuity” in the teaching staff. He acknowledged that nearly all teachers who are rated as “ineffective” and a little more than half who are rated as “minimally effective” in the IMPACT evaluation system leave the school system, compared to 10% of teachers rated as “highly effective.”

Mr. Ferebee’s generally positive testimony highlighted a number of strides DCPS has made to improve these statistics by touting increased enrollment in public schools; the LEAP professional development program, which offers teachers weekly training and feedback; and the fact that DCPS offers teachers an average salary $20,000 higher than the national average.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, repeatedly asked Mr. Ferebee what he thought of the criticism and data discussed at the hearing, and by what standard should the chancellor’s performance be measured a year from now.

“A great teacher in every school, in every classroom,” said Mr. Ferebee, who took charge of city schools in March.

Council member David Grosso, at-large independent and Education Committee chairman, questioned whether the District should change its universal per-student funding formula to provide more money for support staff, like social workers, rather than increase teacher salaries.

While Mr. Grosso and Mr. Ferebee agreed that teachers continue to express a need for more resources, the chancellor said the District outpaces other jurisdiction in the number of support staff.

Richard Jackson, president of the Council of School Officers, testified that it can take about five years for principals to see progress in their schools and make effective changes. He asked that the schools pursue offering principals multiyear, instead of one-year, contracts.

“This one change will have the immediate and positive impact of slowing the flow of turnover in school administrators,” Mr. Jackson said.

Last school year, 23 DCPS schools had a new principal.

Washington Teacher’s Union President Elizabeth Davis said that all schools that receive public funds should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, reduce class sizes, increase funding for emotional and social programming in schools so teachers don’t have to double as social workers and improve professional development opportunities.

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